PETER Sanders’ film or documentary The Disappeared or Desaparecido in Spanish, is very interesting albeit spine-chilling to watch. The plot or storyline relives the horrors of Argentina’s Dirty War (1976-83) through the experience of Horacio Pietragalla, a young man raised by the maid of the officer who kidnapped him after the military brutally murdered his parents.
Editor’s Memo by Dumisani Muleya
The film follows Horacio as he reconstructs the cause for which his real parents gave their lives, and, through this search, reclaims his true identity. This personal journey dramatises the tragedy that ravaged the country for seven years and exposes polarised views on state-driven terrorism in groundbreaking interviews.
The documentary represents the first time a filmmaker has followed a child of desaparecidos in his journey of discovery for a period of five years, capturing the only case in which a person was able to recover the remains of both parents. It captures one of the darkest periods in Latin American history. From 1976 to 1983, a brutal military junta ruled Argentina in what was called the “Dirty War”, when some 10 000 persons “disappeared” amid rampant human rights abuses and killings.
Many of the “disappeared” were believed to have been abducted by agents of Argentine’s regime, defeated in 1983. During those years, the disappeared were often tortured and killed before their bodies were disposed of in unmarked graves.
The Disappeared has always come to mind whenever I think of the mysterious abduction and disappearance of journalist-turned-activist Itai Dzamara, a former colleague at this newspaper between 2004 and 2007. Dzamara was also a good friend. We had a good working relationship even though he left the newspaper rather unceremoniously.
Well after he had left, we continued to talk whenever we met and on social media, particularly over political and football issues. I remember Dzamara in the newsroom as a good-humoured but passionate Caps United and Manchester United supporter. He was close to former Caps United and Warriors coach Charles Mhlauri who sometimes visited him at work. In fact, he claimed to be his advisor.
Besides, we were once arrested together in 2004 over an Air Zimbabwe story which had said President Robert Mugabe had commandeered a flight for his holiday trip to the Far East. Iden Wetherell and Vincent Kahiya were also picked up.
Now things have changed so much. We are horrified by the surreal disappearance of a former colleague. So much has been said and written about this issue, except that Mugabe’s regime can be blamed for Dzamara’s disappearance. It must prove it is not responsible by doing its job — thoroughly investigating the case.
Of course, Mugabe is not personally responsible, but the climate of impunity his regime has created under his 35-year authoritarian rule makes him blameworthy.
It’s strange some people, mostly those paid to defend Zanu PF and Mugabe, or who ingratiatingly do so, want to blame the victim. That’s rather callous and absurd.
So many people have disappeared in Zimbabwe since 1980, especially during Gukurahundi, but nothing has been done about it. If anything, some of those responsible for the disappearances and murders have been rewarded with top jobs as ministers and security service chiefs.
Impunity though is not just about those who have disappeared — the likes of Captain Nleya, Rashiwe Guzha, Patrick Nabanyana, Edward Chikomba and Tonderai Ndira — but also many others subjected to violence and death without prosecution or punishment of perpetrators many of whom still freely roam the streets.
So long as impunity remains, abductions and forced disappearances will continue. Arbitrary detentions, torture and other forms of ill-treatment that go unpunished fuel impunity.
Public security and criminal justice officials frequently ignore human rights violations and remain ineffective at investigating and prosecuting perpetrators, reinforcing impunity. This is the system Mugabe has created and he should thus be blamed for such things as Dzamara’s disappearance. The buck stops with him.